Digital Ischemia

01/09/2013

Five

Filed under: Glen Tosied — Tags: , , , , — Teepwriter @ 16:03

Derg directs his drilling stare at Blink. “What resources do you have? What facilities?”
Venom clambers over her anxiety and affront. “Er, I’m in charge.”
Derg grins. Blink smirks at his gender stereotype being reprised. Five form a pentagonal conference. Derg scans them, nodding approval to Venom’s hunkered-down attire, skimming Merrill, appraising the degree of threat in Blink’s lankness, allowing alarm over Sticks’ fungal fog. The child is only semi-conscious. Derg birls the slender rifle they all failed to register on its diagonal strap, flipping it from its resting position along his back to a pointless pose of skyward readiness.
“You need some meat?”
Venom continues her careful struggle to maintain control. “It’s not safe.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Clearly, but what I mean is the game is contaminated.”
Derg glances to Merrill for confirmation. She shrugs.

Derg purses the lower half of his face. “So what’s your plan?”
Venom stipulates, “I’ll need one of your hairs.”
He consents, tweaking one from his scalp and smoothly depositing it in her palm. “If I get to see your kit.” Good deal.
“Fair enough.” Pitiful bargain. From a box she hauls out a traditional microscope and a glass slide of pale, subterranean goop. Once loaded and inspected, Venom gestures the others to examine her exhibit. Blink leaps, virtually elbowing for first place. For anticlimax, as usual.
“What am I looking at?”
“Nothing.”
Sarcasm dribbles from his slack, careless lips. “Oh, good.”
“Yes: good.” Other potential punters display apathy, so Venom crashes on, addressing the company, “musical beds again?” She notes Merrill’s minor infarction of alarm before herding Sticks and Blink below. Only polite to allow Derg to inform Merrill in private of the extent of his heroism and her rescue.

Venom and Blink huddle in the tunnel, sharing the grimy blanket with careful attention to avoiding any physical contact. Sticks gyrates around them, occasionally pushing through their gap, destroying the draping. He’s irritated by the buffeting and re-blanketing, but more by the fractional separation. Venom claws at some pre-emptive hospitality.
“You can’t sleep out here indefinitely.”
He pictures the increasing pressure on the upstairs chamber. “Do I have a option?” But she said ‘out’ not ‘down’…
“Yes, you have an option.”
He sails past subtlety to indicate their newest members with an eyebrow ripple. “What about that little interplay?”
“I’m trying to elevate arrangements above your soap opera sensibility.”
“Oh, real–”
An unaccustomedly booming holler fractures their conference. Sticks breaks orbit to skitter toward the hut hatch, deliberately rebounding and revolving along the wall. Venom watches her with deep concern. Blink watches Venom with deepening fascination.

Derg sucks in a lungful of stale hut air. His mouth flexes, readied for the opening phoneme. A chicken rustles. His audience stirs. The moment trashed as if by sweetie wrappers and mobile phone tootlings, he condescends to waver his glance. A creature with four legs and no feathers lopes into their midst, drawing a wake of spiralling chickens. The ants drill on admirably. Merrill bounces with adoration.
“Bunny!”

Everyone else tenses. Derg grabs Merrill, the only one with idiotic instinct. He’s right: she wants to nurse and nurture it. He wants to kill and eat it. Blink has an internal battle between needing the nourishment to survive and his moral weakness: an inability to directly take another life. Sticks doesn’t have a definitive opinion on the fate of the rabbit; she simply dislikes it from a sense that it’s evil. Venom allows the debate to play out. After fifty tedious seconds she pronounces.
“We have to kill it and we absolutely must not eat it.”
She snips a pinch of fur from the dazed, cowering creature, drops it carefully on to another small glass slide and places this on the opaque viewing surface of the microscope. “It must’ve squeezed in through the tiniest crack.”
Sticks shrinks into the furthest corner. Derg is impatiently disinterested. Venom examines this sample with prescient pessimism. She offers to share.
“Once again.”
Merrill tentatively steps up and squints into the eyepiece.
“Woo, it’s all sparkly.”

Blink awaits his turn with dread and sullenness as deductions crystallise: the rabbit’s fur is emitting radiation, detected by its causing the goop to phosphoresce. This is why Venom avoids areas of the underground network: they glow too brightly. And this is why they can’t eat the rabbit: it’s contaminated. Somehow Sticks senses this danger. And that’s why it ran into the hut in the first place. After a point there’ll be no wildlife beyond the ark.
Venom quietly concludes the matter.
“It’s all yours, Derg.”
Derg swings over, lifts the pathetic animal by the scruff of its neck and carries it outside.

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